The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Monday, June 20, 2005

Kilgore running out front; A1

Republican wants Potts kept out of upcoming debates

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WINCHESTER — Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore is still the front-runner in the three-way race to be the next governor of Virginia, according to a poll conducted this week.

A survey of 500 likely voters taken Wednesday by pollster Scott Rasmussen found that Republican nominee Kilgore led Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine 46 percent to 40 percent. Some 2 percent supported unspecified third party candidates.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, is on the November ballot as an independent.

Both major-party nominees have picked up ground from the last survey in April at the expense of independents. At that time,

Kilgore led with 44 percent to Kaine’s 36, with 5 percent for third-party hopefuls.
The polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Kilgore has held the top spot in polls since the earliest surveys were taken this year.

A May poll taken by Survey USA for WSLS-TV in Roanoke found Kilgore leading Kaine 44 percent to 40 percent, with Potts polling at 5 percent. Some 11 percent were undecided.

A similar poll taken in early March split the three 46 percent, 36 percent and 6 percent respectively, with 12 percent undecided. The polls had margins of error of plus or minus 4.5 and 4.2 percent.

“We feel very good about where we are, but we don’t live or die by polls,” Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Friday. “It’s better to be ahead than not, but it’s early yet.”

Murtaugh said Wednesday’s survey results reinforce the GOP candidate’s contention that any debates — two have been agreed to by both camps at present — will be two-man affairs.

“Debates should be left to those candidates who actually have a chance of winning,” he said.

Similar comments by Kilgore this week thoroughly riled Potts, who appealed to supporters in an e-mail this week for help getting into any debates.

“I want to respond to Kilgore’s quotation,” Potts told the Daily on Thursday. “The last time I looked, the people of Virginia decide who can win an election.”

The comment was typical of the “smug, arrogant fashion in which the Kilgore campaign” has been operating, Potts said.

There’s a great tradition of multi-candidate debates in American politics, he said, pointing to the 1992 presidential contest and numerous national primary elections.

By refusing to go on stage with all three contenders, the Kilgore campaign has the look of “a deer in the headlights” of an oncoming car, the senator said.

“Jerry Kilgore can run but he can’t hide,” Potts said. “What are you afraid of?”

Kilgore’s camp declined to respond to Potts directly, but did say that the Kaine campaign’s long list of proposed debates — 11 in total, ranging in location from Southwest Virginia to the Eastern Shore — is a sign of desperation.

Kaine’s press secretary, Delacey Skinner, said the campaign doesn’t put much stock in any poll except the one on Nov. 8, but the Democrat has gained ground and is “well within striking distance.”

As for debating, the Kaine camp has accepted invitations to appear with Potts. And if the organizers want to go ahead without Kilgore, “we don’t have any intentions of withdrawing.”

The Kaine campaign’s official Web log pointed supporters toward an editorial in the Staunton News Leader on Friday that excoriated Kilgore for the candidate’s position on debates and wanting to remain in a “carefully controlled campaign bubble.”

Being unwilling to face Kaine and Potts at the same time shows how the candidate can be caught flat-footed on the issues, the article states.

“The campaign that starts jumping up and down and starts hollering about debates is the campaign that knows it’s in trouble,” Murtaugh said.